Ahead of the Dimitris Basis concert, I’m preparing for the intriguing combination of cultural immersion and personal challenge that awaits me at Trak Bar in Toorak.

As a Melbourne-born Sri Lankan, I am acutely aware of my cultural background in this predominantly Hellenic crowd.

Yet, this is not a cause for feeling inadequate. The Greeks, in my experience, epitomise hospitality and warmth, their generosity extending across geographical and cultural borders.

The inclusivity of Mediterranean culture spans from Rhodes to Richmond, from Alexandroupoli to Armadale, and tonight, it stretches from Thessaloniki to Toorak.

My internal struggle is not cultural but personal: I am an introvert, predisposed to early nights and quiet evenings.

The scheduled start time of 10pm is daunting. Nevertheless, the allure of listening to songs in Greek compels me.

I am a former student of the Greek language. I wasn’t a very good one, but what has stayed with me is a love of the powerful and melodic language.

I know Trak as a revered spot amongst Melbourne’s Greek community. This evening, the venue is thrumming with anticipation, teeming with devotees ranging from their 30s to their 70s, nearly all of them Greek.

At 10.15pm, on a brisk Melbourne evening, my partner James and I arrive at Trak. The security guard’s warm smile is a prelude to the night’s welcoming atmosphere. He checks we’re in the right place:

“You’re here for the international music performance?”

We collect our tickets and make our way down to the illuminated heart of the venue.

Photo: Supplied

By 10.30pm, we meet our dear friends, Leon and Mary, whose generous invitation brought us here. We find ourselves ensconced in a cabaret-style booth, sharing space with new, friendly faces. The setting is intimate and the chatter is lively.

It’s 11.30pm and Basis has graced the stage. He looks a lot older than his press photos so I am at first confused whether it is him or not. I am in hindsight embarrassed by this mistake. I feel warm in the presence of my company, and so when Basis starts singing, my mind is immediately transported to hastily retrieved memories of Greece. Basis is at ease and so am I.

It’s 12.30am and the performance is getting stronger and louder. Basis communicates with us by drawing us into an intimate dialogue. The crowd responds in kind, leaving their booths to join together, their bodies swaying as if tethered by an invisible thread. This isn’t just a concert; it is a communal experience, a ritual of belonging and remembrance. There is a lady standing on the table dancing. I watch as her body moves gracefully to the words of Basis.

It’s 1.30am and our booth is littered with a couple of empty bottles of Ouzo. Observing the crowd is as captivating as the performance itself. People request boxes of carnations to be thrown on stage. This is something quite common in the Bouzoukia in Athens. I have learned it is to express adoration to the performing artist but also an indication of one’s status. There are carnations everywhere on stage and in the isles. It’s a vibrant mess.

It’s 2am and the atmosphere is at its apotheosis. The table dancing lady is still going strong. I however, am seeking sleep. I nudge James and he understands immediately. He looks grateful that I’ve been able to last this long. We wait until the song finishes and we say our goodbyes to our old and new friends.

As non-Greeks stepping into a world that wasn’t ours, the music had an uncanny way of making us feel at home.